Dog vaccinations are an important part of preventative dog health care.
Having these modern miracles of medicine available for our pets has saved countless dogs from sickness and death.
If your pup is less than thrilled about getting stuck with needles (like this little guy), just tell him it's for his own good. He'll get over it.
While debate continues to rage about the frequency and necessity of certain dog vaccines, I prefer to follow my vet's advice on which shots to get for my dogs, and how often they should get them.
Here's some information I've gleaned from reputable sources that may help you.
Get Started With Puppy Vaccinations
Newborn puppies are blessed with some natural immunity from their mothers.
But as that puppy immunity begins to taper off, they're left extremely susceptible to various diseases.
That's why you need to get started with puppy shots as soon as your vet recommends.
He'll help you establish a puppy vaccination schedule to make sure your pup gets off to a great start.
In most cases, vaccinations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, followed by periodic boosters, will keep your pet protected for life.
Frequency of Dog Vaccinations
Many vaccinations for dogs used to be given every year, like clockwork. You'd get a reminder postcard in the mail, and knew it was time for your dog's annual checkup and shots.
Well, he still needs to go in for a checkup every year, but he may not need to get stuck with a needle every time. Thankfully, modern vaccines now provide protection from disease for much longer than one year.
In fact, many adult canine vaccines may last as long as three years. The rabies vaccine (required by law for dogs) can be effective for either one or three years, depending on the type of vaccine used.
Your veterinarian works hard to keep up with the latest information on vaccines for dogs, and he'll will make sure your pooch gets the right shots at the right time.
Core and Non-Core Vaccines
Dog vaccinations are divided into two types: core and non-core. Core vaccines are used against dog diseases that are fatal, extremely difficult to treat, or zoonotic diseases (transmissible to humans).
They're recommended for all dogs due to the seriousness of the diseases involved. These include vaccines against:
- Canine parvovirus
- Canine distemper
- Canine adenovirus-2
Non-core vaccines are optional and should be administered based on risk of exposure.
This varies, depending on where you live and the kinds of activities you and your dog engage in.
These include vaccines against:
- Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
- Lyme disease
There are even a few vaccines that are generally not recommended by most vets (at the time of writing), either because they haven't been proven effective or there's an unacceptable risk of side effects to the vaccine.
These include vaccines against:
- Canine Coronavirus
- Giardia lamblia
In our world of one-stop shopping, it's not surprising that the animal health care industry has put together a combination of vaccines for the convenience and comfort of our pets. One major exception is the rabies vaccine, which is always given separately.
The most common combo shot is the DAPP vaccine. This 4-in-1 vaccine combines protection against distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza.
Your veterinarian may prefer a different combo shot, depending on what he feels is most important for dogs in his geographical location. If you're concerned about what he's shooting into your dog, just ask. I'm sure he'll be happy to explain his preferences and concerns.
Your own dog's lifestyle may increase his exposure to other diseases. If he's around other dogs a lot -- in dog shows or at boarding kennels, for example -- you might want to opt for dog vaccinations against the diseases that are spread when animals are in close contact with each other.
And if you like to go hiking and/or camping with your dog (lucky pup!), you should check into vaccinations against tick-borne and wildlife-carrying diseases. Your vet can help you decide which dog shots your pup really needs.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines force the immune system to produce antibodies to a specific disease.
Then if the immunized dog is later exposed to that disease, he already has the antibodies on hand, ready and waiting to attack and destroy the disease.
Pretty nifty, eh? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to the deadly diseases rampant in today's world.
Digging a little deeper here, vaccines come in two types: killed and modified live.
The killed vaccines are more stable, but they require more injections to immunize the pet and are more likely to cause allergic reactions.
On the other hand, modified live vaccines work more quickly and for longer periods of time, they're less expensive, and they only need a single dose to be effective.
Since vaccinations of both types are hard on the immune system, it's not a good idea to vaccinate a puppy or dog that's sick. His body is already too busy fighting off infection to have to deal with a vaccine, too.
Stick To a Dog Vaccination Schedule
You need to work with your veterinarian to design a dog vaccination schedule that's unique to your own pooch. Every dog's needs are different, based on his age, health status, reproductive status, and environment. Take the time to discuss your concerns with your vet.
Whichever dog vaccinations you decide to use for your dog, make sure you stick to the schedule you and your vet have set up. Vaccines are only going to help your pooch if you get them inside of him!
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